Rogaine Ireland 25-26th June 2011 - Winners Report
A trip to Europe looked the best. It was closest and cheapest for international travel. There were a few options, including the European Champs. However, it was decided that competing in an event where we technically weren’t eligible to win just didn’t generate enough excitement. Our eyes alighted on the small 24-hour Irish Rogaine. It didn’t take much convincing to make a trip to the Emerald Isle.
We got into Ireland a few days before the race and found accommodation in Avoca, near the Wicklow Mountains, some 40km south of Dublin. We did a bit of the usual touristy stuff, sight-seeing around Wicklow and a few neighboring counties. We also got a good taste of the good and the bad of Irish weather. The Wicklow Mountains turned out to be all that we expected. Lots of open moorland and heather, clouds and mist rolling over the peaks as well as the odd squall of rain.
On the morning of the race, we arrived early and were soon suffering the midges. Irish rogaining seems to be at the same level as that in South Africa. We found it a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere, with the 56 teams competing over the 24 and 8-hour events more or less matching our own numbers at our annual rogaine. Our goal was to try and win, but we knew that we would need to adapt quickly to the terrain to overcome any disadvantage of being an ‘away’ team. At noon, the starter set us off and we quickly moved to one side to plot the various checkpoints onto the hiking / walking map of the Wicklow Mountains. This took us a bit longer than we would have liked, about 20-25 minutes for plotting and deciding what order we would visit the points (more details in the technical report later on).
The first few hours went very well. We made a few small route choice errors due to inexperience with the terrain (such as don’t go into the plantation forests, not without a buzz-saw anyway!), but learnt our lessons quickly. There were a couple of teams running nearby who were obviously also aiming at a good placing, and this kept our focus. The mountains were beautiful, particularly at higher altitudes with short heather, where we often found ourselves running through light mist. Water was plentiful up on the hills and we found ourselves refilling regularly from quite a few smaller streams.
The climb was incessant though, either up or down. We managed a high average speed over the first afternoon, but knew we would end up slowing down through the night and into the second day. For long sections of this part of the course, we found ourselves in totally remote and stunning parts of the Wicklow Mountains. At one stage we estimate that we went nearly four or five hours without seeing another person. When darkness did arrive, it was short and pleasant, with the lights of Dublin glowing above the northern horizon. We’d also planned our route such that we were at lower altitudes at night, which generally featured more roads and tracks,. warmer temperatures and none of the patchy mist seen on the mountain tops. We also had the advantage of being able to use our Petzl Ultra’s to light up large areas of terrain around us.
By daylight on the second day, we knew we were doing well. Our average speed would hopefully see us collect all the check points on offer within the 24-hour cut-off, with even an hour or two buffer. We were back up on the mountains, but this also meant more climb and also areas of deeper heather, seriously reducing our running speed. We kept pushing on, determined to achieve the goal of getting all the check points, but at the same time planning short-cuts back to the finish in case we did run out of time. One particularly tough 6km uphill took us over an hour.
With two hours to go we knew we could do it, getting all points and back to the finish with half an hour to spare. The terrain had a few final surprises however, including a technical navigation stretch from the last control to the finish through some scattered woodland. Our hopes of finding an easy path through it were quickly dashed, and we ended up bashing our way through and loosing valuable time. In the end, we only sneaked in with about 9 minutes to spare, but thankfully with all checkpoints accounted for.
The result was good enough to give us a solid win. Racing in Ireland was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and a decision that Ryno and I definitely agree was a good one. We had stunning scenery the whole way and encountered some great Irish hospitality along the way. This included a social group having an all-night party who showed us the shallowest place to cross a particularly deep river; we also had to turn down their offers of their local beverages (we didn’t want them to run short). We recovered well after the race, despite the tough physical terrain. It was perfect training and additional experience as we now set our goals on the 2012 World Champs. Needless to say, the Setanta Irish Rogaine will go down in our books as a race to remember and one that we highly recommend for any other international visitors.
Nicholas Mulder and Ryno Griesel Team Cyanosis
June 2011, Rogaine 24 Hour Route Choice - All Controls, less than 10 Minutes to Spare!
The South African duo of Nicholas Mulder and Ryno Griesel had an impressive run in this year’s Setanta Rogaine Ireland, collecting all controls with less than 10 minutes to spare to become the Setanta Rogaine Ireland 2011 Champions. Here is their technical analysis of their route choices and experiences along the way.
They have also provided the data file from their iGotU GPS logger (it’s doesn’t have a screen or audio signal, it just logs the data of where you’ve been), for anyone that’s interested. You can download the gpx file here.
The Technical Report Time: 23 hours, 50 minutes, 40 seconds Check points: 38 / 38 Distance: 143 km Altitude gain: about 6600 m
The start Arrived early, so we got a good parking spot. Did a very short warm-up, took some photos, packed our backpacks. We didn’t fully fill our bladders with water, as we realized that the numerous mountain streams would give us plenty of opportunities to refill on the way. However, this just meant we had more space for food, so we didn’t go any lighter.
Plotting This was the first time we’ve had to plot in a rogaine (although we’ve done it in a few adventure races), as every race we’ve done before had the points pre-plotted on the map. We were pre-warned however, so we spent a bit of time a few days before getting to understand how the co-ordinate system worked. In the end it worked out easier than expected, but we were still frustrated with taking 20 minutes, especially with a constant stream of team leaving whilst we were still discussing routes.
The General Plan We didn’t know if it was possible to collect all points within 24-hours (23.6 and counting down). However, we were fairly optimistic and so we designed a route that would take in all the points. As usual we made sure that towards the end of this route we had multiple ‘short cuts’ back to the finish if we started running out of time. We also left the majority of the low pointers near the start / finish for the very end.
We also took weather and terrain into account. Arriving early in Ireland meant we had a decent understanding of the local weather. The plan was to be off the high mountains and night as much as possible, making use of the valleys and lowlands. Not only did this mean that we would avoid the possibility of navigating through thick mist at night on the mountain tops, but the lowlands would also be warmer and easier to navigate due to the better path networks in them. The general layout of the map suggested that we should thus be on the eastern, lower side of the map during the approximate 8 hours of darkness.
The final plan was therefore to first head up onto the highest peaks, heading out west from the start, the moving onto the south-west corner of the map. Hopefully by this time we would have a better understanding of what distance we would be able to cover in 24-hours. We could then make a call as to visit the far southern check points or not (#38 would be the first to fall away). From the south end, we would head back north on the lower altitude eastern side of the map, taking up most of the night time. Time permitting, we would then be able to visit as many of the northern points as possible on the Sunday morning (specifically #1, #2, #6). We would leave #s 10, 9, 18, 20 and 19 till last. Depending on time, we could start dropping some or all of these on the way to the finish.
The first few hours We jogged out towards the military road and onto #17, easy enough. Then the firebreak to #16. Very muddy, so I was able to introduce Ryno to the term ‘bog trotting’. Then our first mistake. We decided to ‘tiger line’ it to #15. This meant going straight through the forest, a decision we almost immediately regretted. After less than 500m (and about 10 mins of time loss), we changed direction and bashed our way up to the open moor. This was our first mistake on the ‘learning curve’ and we planned to make it our last.
Next to #14. We hit cloud as we went over the East Top and were completely blind going into the control. We had a big confidence boost when we hit it spot on. From here we contoured to #13, then across to #11 before returning the same direction to #12. To a large degree, we tried to minimize climb as much as possible during the race, taking routes that allowed us to contour and save any un-necessary climb. At this time, we were also trying to work out which slopes had better runability, north or south-facing, as it would sometimes affect route choice. So far, we were in unanimous agreement that the higher altitude moors were superb for running.
From #12, we headed for #26, then #25. Whilst running, we were still reanalyzing our route choice and at this stage we decided to go fetch #24, which we had originally intended to leave for last, but which would have then been a bit out of the way. We then returned to our route and went to #29, #28 (beautiful lake!) and #27. We almost certainly took a non-optimum route to #27 by going too straight and we should have aimed off a bit further northwards.
We then headed to #34, via the Wicklow Gap parking lot. This meant we could use a portion of the tar road leading up to the reservoir, getting us up the steepest part of the climb. Next was #35 and then a beautiful and fast downhill run to #36. En route we came across a mixed pair going the other way. It would be our last sighting of anyone for about 5 or 6 hours!
At #36 we stopped and opened the map fully, pulled out a piece of string and did some rough calculations. It showed that our current speed would be good enough to get us fully around the planned course, with even 3 or 4 hours to spare (but not counting any slow down in speed going into the 2nd day). This was good enough for us, so we headed off for #38. We used a lot of hiking paths on this leg, which was especially nice as it was on wooden boardwalk and thus very runnable.
We turned north for the first time and headed for #37, via the National Park office. On the way down, we stopped to refill our water bladders for the first time. However, whilst worrying about this, I forgot to keep eating regularly on this leg and blew spectacularly on the uphill to #37. Luckily I saw the problem early and quickly downed some food.
By now it was starting to get very gloomy. As usual, this seems to be the time when you push the hardest, trying to cover as much ground as possible before you finally loose all light. We got down to #33 and then crossed the Wicklow Gap road once again heading for #32. We got over Brockagh Mountain at last light, which meant that at least we had a quick view of Scarr, the next peak that we would climb. We had a bit of a problem finding #32, the fence corner, when we hit the fence too far to the left in the dark. After about 3 minutes we found it and headed for #31. This was one of the first real route choice dilemmas for the race, as there was no clear route down the mountain to the Miltary Road below (at least not a direct one). We decided to go a bit further north and come down an open strip next to a stream (and a few waterfalls). It worked out superbly and we were soon on the Military road about to climb a zig-zag track up to #31. We were a bit hesitant here, as there was a house nearby. Sure enough, only 10 metres onto this land, we were apprehended by the landowner and politely asked to leave. Despite a charm offensive and the best look of innocence, we got nowhere with our attempts for a special dispensation. At least he volunteered the information that the next track down the valley would also zig-zag up to the top of the hill. This plan was followed and it worked out rather well. We also met up with two teams; nice to see a few friendly faces!
From #31, we headed for #30 and then #23. On both occasions and despite the darkness, we decided to go for the riskier contouring route choice. They both worked out very well, in part thanks to some heavy duty Petzl headlamps that we were carrying. From #23, we had a thrilling downhill run to #22 through some thick ferns. At #22 we were really hoping for a bridge over the river. No luck, but some very (very) friendly locals who were having a good party down at the river showed us where the shallowest crossing point was in the river. After politely declining some beverages, we crossed holding out backpacks over our heads, only going about waist deep.
The next section of the course would be slightly easier as we’d follow a sequence of tracks and paths for long distances. We’d hoped to pick up speed again here, but the accumulated 12 hours of jogging had taken it’s toll and all we could manage was to maintain the current pace. So we ticked off #21 and #8. Then it was across off the mountain again to #4, which we reached just at first light and then #3. Here we spent a short time searching for the flag on the cliff, with there being more cliffs than the one on the map.
The heather had been quite deep and tough going for this last section, so we happily went over the top of the Tonduff North Mountain to #5, where the boggy land actually made it more runnable. I let my concentration slip however approaching #5 and we ended up off course, finishing about 500m to far to the south-east before correcting. Oops.
We were so fed up with deep heather by this stage that we decided to take the easy option to @2 and cross the Liffey to get to the service road up to the Kippure mast. It was nice to be on a solid surface, but it also showed us how sore our legs were. We followed the nice flags into the control point that had been put up by the emergency personnel. Even then, Ryno still managed to step into a bog pit well above his knees. From there is was off to #1 and then to #6. We were a bit hesitant about running into more landowners, so we were a bit circumspect when crossing the fields near the River Liffey. In the end we put our head down and crossed as quickly as possible.
We had been dreading the northern section of the map, mainly because there were some very long distances between check points. The walk from #6 to #7 was by far the worst, taking us well over 1 hour to cover the 4 km. All this while, time was still ticking. Our speed had dropped overnight and on the second morning as expected and our 4 hour cushion had now been reduced to about 1 hour. This was eating into it further, but it did force us to push the pace on the downhill to #10.
At #10, our self-imposed cut-off was calculated at 2 hours to go, if we wanted to visit the remaining 4 check points. We got there with 20 minutes to spare and so set off. This section had us constantly taking split times to calculate pace and re-measuring remaining distances. With nothing better to do, we had a whole list of precise time calculations to meet, which at least gave us a mental and psychological boost. We got to #9 two minutes faster than planned, but then took 5 minutes longer for the leg down to #18 (horrible thick heather). We clawed this back however to #20, despite the climb. At this stage we finally knew we’d reach our target of getting all the points and cruised into #19 with a ½ hour cushion, meaning we expected to arrive at the finish 30 minutes early. I had even given ourselves a luxurious 30 minutes to cover the 1.5km of this last leg, fully aware that it was through the same plantation forest that had caught us unaware just after the start. True to form however, the 1.5km of forest to the finish turned out to be the sting in the tail as we just couldn’t find an easy line or track going in more or less the right direction. In the end we just put our heads down and popped out on the main forest track about 500m downhill from the finish. We got into the finish, having seen our buffer reduced from 30 minutes to 10.
Conclusion Overall this was a wonderful event. We thoroughly enjoyed it and hats off to the organizers, particularly the people who got out there to place the control markers in the terrain (and collect them again!). Looking back at our race, there isn’t anything that I’d change in the route plan, so it would be interesting to see if anyone has got thoughts on a faster or shorter route. We were pretty happy with our performance, which we think was actually a step up from our race at the World Champs in New Zealand. We still have a bit to improve on physically for the next Champs, so the Setanta Rogaine has been a good test for us. Thank you once again to the organizers for a great experience!
Nicholas Mulder and Ryno Griesel.
2011 Rogaine - Report from First Time Competitor
The Rogaine Event held in the Wicklow Mountains and organised by Setanta Orienteers, caught my eye about 3 years ago when I got into orienteering in Cork. But it looked pretty serious stuff on the navigation side of things and I thought maybe sometime I could rope a friend or two into teaming up for it.
After doing a lot more on the navigation skills in the past year with Nathan’s excellent instructors (completed MS2 in February), I thought maybe I’d look at the 6hr event. Of my two friends who would have been up for it, one was going to be on honeymoon and the other had a family holiday booked, but this year they opened up the 6hr event to individuals as well. So on a day when I’m not sure I was thinking straight, I signed up.
To take from the organisers website (www.setantaorienteers.org/rogaine), “Rogaining is a sport of long distance navigation on foot for teams of two or more over a twenty four hour period. The object of the sport is to score points by finding checkpoints located within a specially mapped area within the allowed time period. As checkpoints can be visited in any order, strategy and teamwork are important features of the sport as well as endurance, stamina and navigational skills, with night navigation a key element. The team members must stay together at all times.”
From my own observation, the event caters for the casual hillwalker to the hard core orienteers (some of those on the 24hr would sleep out overnight in bivvy bags, or continue straight through the night, instead of coming back to base for a few hours sleep).
Feeling pretty nervous arriving for registration, our mandatory kit was checked and there was a chance to talk to a few fellow competitors. At 12noon, we received an envelope with a list of control points (CPs) and their grid references, and the clock started ticking… The first 20mins (depending how fast you were!) was spent transferring the CPs to the map, noting their scoring, and planning the route. I quickly struck off CPs that were way off at a distance, as I knew I wouldn’t be the fastest mover, so Plan A was to follow the blue route I’ve marked on the map as this could be followed in a relatively good sequence, however, noting the two rivers to be crossed.
More about Plan A in a bit. My other option was the red route taking in CP15 as the first control. Plan A went very quickly down the drain when I made a very basic error of misjudging our starting point and thinking a road above where we were was the one I wanted, it wasn’t…
Onto Plan B. However, this is where local knowledge came into play. I thought I could possibly take one of the forest rides through to hit about 500m below CP15, but the landscape had changed significantly since the map was published and local knowledge knew to turn left and take a more straightforward route, which in hindsight should have been my only route choice.
Realising there was no easy way through the forest, I discounted it and headed straight for an easy pickup of CP17…tick tock… nearly 50mins down already. From there I headed up a very sparse forest ride for CP6, again a rookie mistake with a 1:30000 map, I had the control marked at the wrong junction but quickly corrected it and with a few of us a little confused as to where it was due to disappeared trees, it was found. From there, I took a forest ride NE to hit the hills for CP7, a 400 pointer.
This is where the REAL fun started – with the rain that had been pouring the past few days, the forest was just bog and I was really happy with my new (now filthy) Salomon trail runners and choice of very light running socks. Neither held the water or got sucked off me in the boggy ground. I’d lost any hope of keeping the feet dry for the 6 hours. Eventually reaching the forest edge, found a river crossing point, and onto the heather following a bearing to circle the hill and hit the path that ran from Pt718 to Pt 611.
With a long tiring climb through heather and peat bogs, I was cursing myself for my silly mistake at the start as I’d really have loved to follow my other route. Anyway…reaching the path, took a bearing, and getting excited thinking I’d be hitting CP7 soon…mmmmm. A boulder…so, I reached the contour where this elusive boulder should be, no kite to be seen (I did see a deer!), saw a boulder in the distance way below the pacing, and thought “no way, can’t be that one, maybe I should check..no! don’t, you know it’s not it! otherwise I’ll be checking every boulder I see!” I must have wasted 30 mins trying to figure out what had happened, and where I was.
Finally I decided I’d head up to the steep contour where the boulder should be and circle around to head for the next CP (had done my usual veering left off course). Rounded a corner, and what’s this? A big BIG boulder… and yes it was the one I’d wasted so much time looking for. I just had to take some more time to take a photo! Heading away from there, I felt quite happy as I knew the next one would be OK, headed straight up to the path, took a bearing to hit the river gully above CP10 and tracked down (remembered a discussion from MS2 about ‘bearing off’). Down to the road, have a Mars bar while considering my next option. I considered a trek along the road and take a track to CP9 for the last one, but with 1hr30 left, 4k round trip to get it, with 4k from current position back to base, and points docked for each min late, I decided my weary legs had had enough. By the time I’d get back it would be around 13k covered, 1250 points collected, but compare that to one of the mixed teams who collected 3000+points, I’ve a lot of work to get near that standard!
Getting back to base to a cup of coffee and sit down with the midges, I reflected on the afternoon, the mistakes I’d made, what I’d do different next time, thought of how quickly 6hrs passes and how much I’d really enjoyed it. Will I be signing up again next year? Absolutely. Will I do the 24hr? I seriously doubt it, I think I’ll stick with the 6hr for the moment! Well done to Setanta Orienteers for a great event and thanks to Nathan & the two Daves whose voices popped into my head during the day.
The original report can be found on http://www.outdoorsireland.com/blog/outdoors-ireland/orienteering/. Thanks to Dorothy for letting us use it here!
Rogaine 2011 – Return to the Hills
Coincidentally this year’s event centre was pretty much the same place as 2008 – hopefully not a portent of a repeat of that year! This time the weather seemed more benign, dare I say it a bit more summer like! There was a good entry with a decent number of international competitors, hopefully the Setanta Rogaine is starting to generate a bit of interest from abroad.
We spent the first 20 minutes plotting all our controls and deciding upon route choice and eventually decided on a clockwise sweep of the mountains, starting in a westerly direction. Our first control was a handy 200 pointer in the forest just off the military Road and we were one of many teams to grab some early points here. Afterwards we headed up into very wet forestry across the road for a 350 pointer on incredibly wet ground. Thereafter we were on open mountain under Mullaghcleevaun East Top for a 500 pointer stream junction and then into the mist and rain. We were slightly low on Cleevaun Lough but recovered to get another 500 points on the windswept but beautiful lakeshore. Thereafter we headed southwest around the side of Mullaghcleevaun to another stream junction (we felt this control was much higher on the river than expected) and then up to the saddle between Silsean and Moanbane – another 500 pointer. From here we dropped down to Cock Brook and across to the fence corner under Black Hill for a miserable 350 points! Decision time now and eventually we decided to head for Ballinabrocky Hill – a long way away – the guts of 5km for an even more miserable 200 points. However the day was fine and we were feeling good, amazing what a little sunshine can do to the spirits. After this there was a drop down into the Kippure Adventure Centre (memories of the Art O’Neill Challenge), across the River Liffey and a long slog up the side of Seefin for 400 points. From here we headed for the re-entrant under Kippure and came across hundreds of yellow flags draped across the hill. I remembered then that the “Walk The Line” mountain rescue fund raising event was starting that evening around 10 pm and this was an attempt to keep the walkers out of the worst of the dreaded bog between Seefin and Kippure.
At the summit of Kippure there were loads of mountain rescue personnel and lucky for us they had plenty of water as we had run completely out. By now it was around 9.30pm and we took the opportunity to change from shorts and T shirts into evening wear in anticipation of the coming night ahead of us. We followed the service road down to the Military Road and here we made our first decision to skip 3 controls – under Tonduff, Glensoulan and Djouce and headed straight for our old pal Crockan Pond – determined to get there before darkness fell. I had unpleasant memories of a previous rogaine wandering around for what seemed like an eternity in the darkness looking for this hole in the ground. This time we had no problems, picked up 350 points and headed for the Sally Gap and onto a handy 300 pointer on the stream junction just above the road. Retracing our steps (total darkness by now) we headed up Fancy Mountain for the control on the lower summit (350 points) and from here down to the valley floor to try and pick up the control in the “enclosure” worth a measly 200 points. Knowing this would be tricky in the dark we took a bearing down towards the stream junction just west of the control site with the intention of using it as an attack feature to the control. However the descent was pretty awful with high heather, tussocks and the whole mountain appearing to be a stream with water flowing everywhere. Everywhere we shone our torches a pair of eyes peered back at us, literally dozens of them – a massive herd of deer. After what seemed like an age and very close to giving up, we literally walked into the enclosure – a very impressive feature and one no doubt that would be so easy to spot in daylight.
Moving on we crossed the river and up onto the side of Knocknaclohogue for a 350 pointer. The straight line distance from here to our next control just south of the pier gates was very short but we had a hell of a job going straight and in the end we dropped down to the river, crossed over 2 bridges onto the private road, passing 2 houses, climbing over two large locked steel gates and slogged it up to the Pier Gates themselves and then backtracked down along the edge of the forest to pick up the re-entrant and 300 points. The large and very wet bog immediately east of the control contained some very unusual birdlife which emitted some incredibly strange calls as we disturbed them – a strange kind of booming sound – definitely worth investigating in the future.
At this time of year the nights are quite short and already there was light appearing in the sky. It was a glorious night to be out and we had a long route ahead of us, picking up the Wicklow Way (Leg 3 on WWR) and following this for quite some time(through some beautiful deer filled meadows) to the control on the forestry edge on the north side of Glenmacnass Valley. By now it was totally bright and we were awakening from our semi-stupour. From here we had a long trek across under Scarr (beautiful views to the East) to the lonely Bartons Woods and then an even longer trek across to Kanturk, losing a pile of height in the process and having to regain a lot of it on the other side. The control on the very eastern end of the ridge that makes up Kanturk was beautifully positioned – there is a huge amount of contour and rock feature all along here, most of which the Harveys map does not do justice to but we hit the control nicely and sat enjoying the fabulous vistas for a few moments before heading up on the the Kanturk ridge proper and then dropping down and picking up the 250 pointer on the big boulder just off the Military Road.
By now it was getting close to finishing time and we were pretty weary but we felt we had time for one more and so crossed over the road, across the river and up into Lugnadroohaun valley for a final 300 points before making it home with about 20 minutes to spare.
A lot of people never tackle the rogaine because they say 24 hours is simply too long to be out and too tough. I would agree that it is a very tough challenge but only as tough as you want it to be. I have discovered over the years that a steady pace with regular very short breaks and regular eating works well for me. Sleeping for a few hours and getting going again afterwards does not work for myself but may suit others. The challenge is as much psychological as physical and once you get used to the idea of continuing through the night it’s actually not that bad – even enjoyable if the weather is half decent and you have a reasonable chance of seeing a nice sunrise. There is something quite special about being on your feet for 24 hours and I think these long distance type events give you a great sense of achievement and a level of satisfaction that is deeper and lasts much longer than that felt after more conventional events.
With the growing interest in outdoor activities such as hill running, mountain walking, adventure racing etc I am always disappointed in the numbers our annual rogaine continues to attract. It has been running now for over 10 years and yet around 20 teams are the most we get for the 24 hour challenge. We need to continue to work to promote this special event and to encourage as many as possible to give it a go.
I would also like to pay tribute to the very small number of people who help make this event possible, planner, organisers, event centre management, food, prizes, control placement & collection. Thanks to Denis Deasy, Dave Weston, Hazel Thompson, Jim Mulrooney and all the others who helped out & made our event possible.
Finally I cannot finish without paying tribute to this year’s winners the S African Rand OC Boys. What an incredible performance, I would have thought it impossible to hit all the controls in the allotted time but these lads did it – a truly phenomenal achievement and one that deserves full recognition and applause.